Written with You (The Regret Duet #2)

Written with You (The Regret Duet #2)

Aly Martinez



WILLOW


“Why?” I yelled, my whole body thrumming with betrayal as Hadley sat across the room, high as a kite. Her green eyes, which were only one shade different than mine, were unfocused, cocaine no doubt coursing through her veins. It was her drug of choice and had been since we were sixteen.

“Could you shut up?” she snapped, draping her legs over the arm of the chair.

“You had a baby!” I waved the journal in the air before I threw it at her. She didn’t even try to dodge it.

I’d found it with at least a dozen others in a box she’d mailed to me in Puerto Rico. Was it a gross invasion of privacy to read them? Probably. But after a decade spent with her in and out of rehab, countless nights chasing her down, months where she’d disappear and I had no idea if she was dead or alive, I didn’t feel guilty in the least reading them, hoping for even one tiny glimpse into the woman that was Hadley Banks.

She was supposed to be moving in with me.

She was supposed to be getting her life together.

She was supposed to be sober.

And yet…

She’d never used the plane ticket I’d bought her.

She’d run up over a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of debt on various credit cards.

And just the night before, when I’d flown back after having my heart ripped out by reading her journals, Beth and I had found her half naked in a glorified crack house in Philly.

It was safe to say that Hadley was not okay.

And the more I’d read, the more I’d realized she never had been.

My twin sister, a mere three minutes older than I was, hadn’t walked out of that mall the day our parents were murdered. The innocent eight-year-old little girl on an outing with her family had died in that tragedy. Not physically, of course. She’d walked a lot of steps after that, the majority of them in an effort to outrun the horror of that day. What she really needed though was to follow my footsteps—right into a therapist’s office.

Was I the picture of mental health? Hell no.

I’d contemplated ending my life.

I’d done my time trapped in the prison of fear inside my mind.

I’d woken to the agony of phantom bullets ravaging my body.

But I’d never stopped fighting to get better.

Hadley and I had shared a lot of things in life.

A mother.

A father.

A birthday.

A reflection in the mirror.

But our experiences in that mall couldn’t have been more different.

Hadley was the last person to be found the day of the shooting. When the first shot had been fired, she’d been standing several yards away, snapping the picture to end my roll of film. I’d lost her in the chaos and only later learned that she’d been trampled by men and women alike. Her arm had been broken, but no one had stopped to help her. No one had acknowledged that the terrified child existed. Somehow, she’d gotten herself to the Chinese restaurant where she climbed into a small cabinet, holding the interior latch of the locking mechanism so tight that her fingers became bloody and raw.

She was in agony, but she remained silent long after the police and paramedics had stormed in.

For three hours, she hid in that cabinet.

Alone.

Only a sliver of light peeking through the crack.

Fear terrorized her to the point that she didn’t trust the police enough to come out. In the end, it was a female investigator with rich red hair that she’d seen through the crack and mistaken for our mother that convinced her to spring from that cabinet.

Her sudden scream for our mom startled them.

Guns were drawn.

Aimed at her.

Breaking her all over again.

This time irreparably.

While Hadley and I were identical in virtually every way, after that day at the mall, there was one vast difference that changed the path of our lives forever.

I’d walked out of that war zone with my faith in humanity still intact.

I’d had Caven.

And she’d hated me for it ever since.

I shouldn’t have been surprised she’d gone after him. I’d never seen him or spoken to him after I was carried away on a stretcher.

But a part of me had always loved him.

And for that alone, Hadley made him pay.

“What did I ever do to you?” I whispered, my throat so thick with disgust I could barely get the words to escape. “Please, tell me. What did I do to you that was so horrible that you felt the need to get back at me by making a baby with Caven of all fucking men?”

She shot me a smirk. “Is that what you’re mad about? That I fucked your precious Caven?” His name was a sneer on her lips, and that shot anger up my spine.

“No. See. I’d expect that from you. Honestly, I’m impressed you waited as long as you did. God knows you’ve been trying to punish me for not dying in that shooting for eighteen years now. And what better way than having a baby with the boy who saved me and then giving her up without even telling me?” I planted my hands on my hips and fought back the sobs. “I know you hate me. I know you’ve never forgiven me for being the reason we were at the mall that day. And I know—”

“You know nothing!” She suddenly shot to her feet. “For fuck’s sake, maybe it wasn’t about you, Willow. Ever think of that? I’m sorry to disappoint, but this wasn’t some grand plan devised to torture you. He had Kaleidoscope, plain and simple.”

I ground my teeth and it was a wonder I had any left for all the times we’d had this very same argument. “Don’t you dare mention that picture. Don’t you fucking dare.”

She stared at me, utterly unphased. “You weren’t there.”

I lifted my shirt, pointing to the scar of puckered flesh that had stretched into a spider web over the years. “I was there, Hadley. I was there in ways you will never understand. So don’t you dare talk to me about that damn picture.”

She shrugged. “Then I guess this conversation is over, because without that picture, I can’t talk to you about the baby at all.”

I took a step toward her, her betrayal igniting me into a fiery rage. “The baby? Her name is Keira. Have the decency to at least acknowledge her as a human and not a sack of potatoes you paid a hooker to abandon!”

“I didn’t abandon her. I left her with Caven.”

“So that makes it better?”

“I figured you’d be fucking ecstatic. He always kept you safe.”

I closed my eyes, tears born in frustration flowing down my cheeks.

How did she not understand this?

How could she breathe a single breath knowing there was a little girl out there growing up without a mother?

How did her heart continue beating knowing she’d given up the only family we’d ever have?

How could she have closed her eyes at night for over three years without the regret consuming her?

It had only been a day since I’d found out about that baby and I was crippled by those emotions.

She had a daughter. How had she just left her and then gone on with her life?

I shook my head. “If Mom and Dad could see you now… Jesus, Hadley. You named her after Mom and then gave her away.”

Her eyes flashed dark, her hands balling into fists at her sides. “I didn’t give her away. I gave her to someone who could take care of her.”

“I could have taken care of her!”

A malevolent smirk pulled at her lips as she stepped toward me. Her hand went to my side, directly over my scar.

I winced, knowing where this was going.

She was high. She had no filter when she was using. But this was a new low.

Thanks to Malcom Lowe’s bullet, having children was officially off the table for me. I’d known it since I was a kid myself, but the older I got, the more it seemed to matter. It was the wound that never stopped giving. A scar that wouldn’t heal. The loss of a future I never got to choose.

I hated her for what she was about to say.

I hated her for what she knew about me.

But most of all, I hated her because she knew it all and was going to say it anyway.

She gave my scar a squeeze. “I’ve spent my entire life wishing I could be you. How’s it feel to finally wish you could be me?”

“I hate you,” I breathed, the gaping hole she’d carved making it nearly impossible to speak.

She released me, stepping away, but her gaze never left mine. “No, you don’t. You hate me because I fucked Caven. You hate me for being able to carry a baby. You hate me for seeking the truth. But you don’t hate me, Willow. And you never will.” She lifted a shoulder in a shrug as though she’d just disagreed with me about what to have for dinner that night. “That’s your biggest problem. You can’t let go because you’re scared you’re the one who’s going to end up alone this time.”

She was wrong.

I fucking hated her.

I loathed her.

I wished she’d disappear and never look back.

But I could never let go of the idea that, deep down, my sister was still inside the broken shell of this woman.

Alone.

Scared.

And waiting to be found again.

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